Equal Rights Law Bound for Trial After Pointless Hearing

Photo by Susan Du
Anti-HERO lawyer Andy Taylor called Friday's hearing a great success. Nothing changes in Houston.

Legal jargon, heated accusations and random baseball metaphors aside, Friday's Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) hearing accomplished nothing. The law is suspended until its supporters and opponents duke it out at trial, set for January 2015.

HERO is Mayor Annise Parker's anti-discrimination law that gives legal protection to citizens who are maltreated because of their age, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. Private businesses and government are subject to comply, but religious institutions are exempt.

Nevertheless, representatives of the religious right have banded together in an effort to repeal HERO ever since it became law in late May. Anti-HERO activists circulated a petition to put the ordinance on the November ballot for a referendum vote and gathered more than 50,000 signatures - well more than the 17,269 required for the measure. After review, the city found that only 15,249 were valid, trashing the petition.

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Local Pickup Artist Is at War With Women

Photo by Susan Du
I don't get drunk I get me.

A boys' football coach by day, after hours Russell Carter coaches hardened men in an entirely different game. The playing field is Saint Dane's on a Tuesday night. The ball is in the court of the first beautiful woman who catches his eye -- anyone who rates a nine or 10.

Carter introduces himself. He's 25, tall and muscular with a winning smile. He's a natural comedian, so conversation is easy-flowing. Suddenly he leans in, squinting at the woman's nose. "Wow, you've got a bit of a schnoozle there don't you?" At that point, she recoils, reaching up to cover her face. Carter laughs and apologizes for acting like a kid on a playground. He explains that he likes her but doesn't know how to tell her yet. She relaxes a bit.

In the pickup-artist world, it's a technique called "negging," uplifting a woman's self-esteem, razing it to the ground, and then building her back up again. The thinking goes, if you can control a woman's emotions, you pretty much have her in the "battle for the pussy," says Carter, a newly established dating coach with a handful of clients throughout Houston.

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The Whole World Is Tweeting: Social Media and Social Justice

Thumbnail image for TwitterIfTheySG560.jpg
Twitter and other forms of social media are now legitimate tools in the fight for social justice.
In 1968 outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, all hell broke loose. Antiwar protesters had gathered outside the Hilton Hotel, but what was a peaceful demonstration turned violent when police arrested and even beat some of those being arrested, all while TV cameras were trained on the scene. As they were being loaded into police vans, protesters chanted "the whole world is watching."

Sound familiar?

With the dawn of live TV in the 1960s and the advent of better, more portable videocameras and recording technology, the average American was, for the first time, able to put moving pictures with words. From Chicago to the south where police unleashed dogs and fire hoses on blacks to images of body bags brought home from Asian battlefields, these powerful visual images shocked a nation, helped bring an end to the war and even altered the state of race relations in the country.

Today, we have Twitter...and Facebook...and YouTube...and Instagram. And, in Ferguson, home to the the most recent and disturbing social unrest in America, the world is once again watching.

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Other City of Houston Tweet-Along Opportunities

Oh the hijinks that are possible.
The Houston Police Department has held a couple of "Tweet Alongs" where officers report on their activities on the beat, tagging them #HPDTweetAlong. The most recent was a rather uneventful night shift. It got us to thinking that there are plenty of opportunities for the city to better engage the world of social media via Twitter hashtags.

We don't just mean tweets from the Mayor of members of City Council, or the fire department -- those guys have far more important things to do than tweet. We're talking about the folks with boots on the ground handling the thankless jobs involved in running the fourth largest city in America. Here are some suggestions.

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HSPVA Student's #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Tweet Draws National Attention

Contributed photos

Tyler Atkins, 17, was still fuming about the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri over the weekend, when he saw the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown as he scrolled through his Twitter feed. The hashtag was a response to the photo being circulated of Brown, a blurry image that showed Brown throwing what could have been a gang sign, versus a clearer photo from Brown's high school graduation. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the choice of photo to depict Brown has been worth thousands of Twitter posts.

On Monday evening Atkins, an incoming senior at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, grabbed a couple photos of his own - one of himself dressed all in black and posing during a rap video he made with some friends for a math project (on polynomials), the other of him dressed in a tuxedo and holding his saxophone after a school jazz concert - and posted the images with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. From there, things got interesting as his post went all over the Internet.

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Houston Police Provide Glimpse Into Night Shift With #HPDTweetAlong

Not quite the same level of action, but interesting nevertheless.
Overnight on Thursday, the Houston Police Department conducted a kind of ride along, which is an actual thing (who knew?), not just something done for comic relief in a movie. But instead of taking a potential son-in-law candidate who is scared shitless by the officer's insane antics on the beat, HPD took along the Twitterverse via its Twitter feed and the hashtag #HPDTweetAlong.

Fortunately for the officers involved in the social media experiment, but unfortunately for those expecting high-speed chases and gunplay, it was a rather quiet night. Nevertheless, it was a glimpse into a world most of us never see, complete with photos and video.

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App of the Week: Anonymously Rant to Your Heart's Content With Speakle

Or rant...whichever.
App: Speakle
Platform: iPhone, Android
Website: Speakleapp.com
Cost: Free (requires registration)

There was a time when the Internet was almost entirely anonymous. If you wanted to keep yourself hidden from the masses, you could. You can still do that, but with social networking it is increasingly more difficult to do so. With that comes the burden of having your friends and family members see nearly everything you post.

Former University of Houston grads Saika Momin and Sadiq Momin think they have the answer with Speakle, a kind of social media for the anonymous app that promises to keep your identity hidden, but still allowing you to participate in discussions with others. It's like an old school chat room or online forum before Facebook and Twitter took over.

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Houston Woman Sues Facebook Over Revenge Porn Account

Photo by Maria Elena

Meryem Ali got a call from her cousin.

"Meryem, what is up with you and Facebook?" her cousin asked in December 2013.

Ali said she hadn't logged onto the site in months.

"You need to get home and look at it," her cousin told her, "because someone's acting like it's you, and it's not you."

Ali soon found a Facebook profile of her filled with sexual, doctored photos of her, including a photo of her performing a sex act. She asked Facebook to delete the fake profile, then she asked some more. Finally, the social network did so in April.

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Harris County Boy Hospitalized From Latest Internet Trend, the Fire Challenge

Youtube screenshot
Taken from a video titled "Fire Challenge Gone Wrong"...as if it can ever go right.
You've probably seen it at some point on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Vine feeds: people, particularly teenagers, participating in video "challenges" that usually involve doing something pretty stupid. Say, for instance, swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon in under 60 seconds, or dumping an entire bucket of ice on your head (respectively and creatively called the "Cinnamon" and "Ice" challenges).

The latest, and probably most stupid, challenge trend of them all, the #FireChallenge, has hospitalized a Harris County teenager for harmful burns. According to Lieutenant Dean Hensley of the Harris County Fire Marshal's office, the boy doused himself in isopropyl alcohol, a highly flammable substance, and proceeded to set himself on fire.

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Classmates.com Is Still a Thing?

Uh, no thanks.
The above image is a screenshot of an e-mail that appeared in my inbox recently. It's from Classmates.com. If you have never heard of it, well, it's not surprising. Just as certain inventions like the car killed off horse-drawn carriages, Classmates has been rendered almost entirely useless by Facebook...yet the good people of Classmates seem to hang on and, get this, they actually charge for it.

You heard me. This enticing e-mail with the promise of seeing pictures of some ex-significant other -- in hopes they got wrinkled and disfigured after leaving you for that jackass jock at the prom -- or some dude you thought was dreamy in 10th grade, second period algebra -- he's now a night watchman at warehouse park who enjoys long walks on the beach and scratching himself -- will cost you a membership fee to find out the answers.

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